Endomorphin-1 analogs with oligoarginine-conjugation at C-terminus produce potent antinociception with reduced opioid tolerance in paw withdrawal test

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For clinical use, it is essential to develop potent endomorphin (EM) analogs with reduced antinociceptive tolerance. In the present study, the antinociceptive activities and tolerance development of four potent EM-1 analogs with C-terminal oligoarginine-conjugation was evaluated and compared in the radiant heat paw withdrawal test. Following intracerebroventricular (i.c.v.) administration, all analogs 1–4 produced potent and prolonged antinociceptive effects. Notably, analogs 2 and 4 with the introduction of D-Ala in position 2 exhibited relatively higher analgesic potencies than those of analogs 1 and 3 with β-Pro substitution, consistent with their μ-opioid binding characteristic. In addition, at a dose of 50 μmol/kg, endomorphin-1 (EM-1) failed to produce any significant antinociceptive activity after peripheral administration, whereas analogs 1–4 induced potent antinociceptive effects with an increased duration of action. Herein, our results indicated the development of antinociceptive tolerance to EM-1 and morphine at the supraspinal level on day 7. By contrast, analogs 1–4 decreased the antinociceptive tolerance. Furthermore, subcutaneous (s.c.) administration of morphine at 50 μmol/kg also developed the antinociceptive tolerance, whereas the extent of tolerance developed to analogs 1–4 was largely reduced. Especially, analog 4 exhibited non-tolerance-forming antinociception after peripheral administration. The present investigation gave the evidence that C-terminal conjugation of EM-1 with oligoarginine vector will facilitate the development of novel opioid analgesics with reduced opioid tolerance.

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